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How to Create a 508 Compliant Microsoft Excel Document

By using the built-in features within Microsoft Office and now enhanced in Microsoft 365, to include Excel, you can avoid many of the most common mistakes related to accessibility. It is just as easy to build a 508 compliant document as it is to create a non-compliant one. In fact, using many of these built-in features makes creating a document much easier and faster. Follow the below guidelines and then visit the links on the right for more information and some video tutorials. The blue italicized items in the left table apply to all Microsoft Office documents, to include Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Learn once and apply it to all. When you click on the tutorials and checklists, those links open in a new tab in your browser window. This will allow you to view that content and then click back to this page in the original tab. Click on any image to see a larger version of the image and then the back arrow in the browser to return to this page.

Best Practices and Most Common Issues Related to Excel Documents

Topic​DO's ​DON'Ts​Visual Example
Hyperlinks​Insert hyperlinks by right clicking in a cell and selecting Hyperlinks. Place the full URL in the address box, which automattically populates the hyperlink in the text to display box. Always double check that your hyperlinks work. Add a screen tip to describe what the link leads to. located in the upper righthand of the highperlinks box.​Do not write anything in the text to display box. Having the hyperlink displayed in the spreadsheet allows those who print the spreadsheet to access the link.Adding Screen Tips to Hyperlinks
Merged Cells

Leave the workbook in black and white to provide good visual contrast. Increase row height or column width to assist sighted users. Under the Home tab in the cells section, click format where you can adjust the row height and column width. On each worksheet the information should start in A1 and extend right and down.

Do not merge or split cells. Do not have any empty rows or columns. Adjusting Row Height Formatting column and row size Adjusting Column Width
​Spell Check​Be sure to do a spell check on each worksheet. Excel doesn't put a wavy red line under a word it thinks is misspelled. In the Review tab, in the Proofing group, select Spelling, and follow the prompts.​Do not forget to spell check each worksheet. Excel will only spell check one worksheet at a time.Spell Check
Document Properties​Fill out the Document Properties. This provides background information on the workbook for those reviewing it later and assists search facilities on websites or other document repositories. Click the file tab, and choose the Info tab on the left. On the right side there is a frame listing the properties. You may edit the properties directly here, or use the drop-down menu by the word Properties. Select Advanced Properties, select the Summary tab, and fill out the form.​Do not include information that should be omitted for security or privacy reasons.Advanced Document PropertiesDocument Properties Direct Add
Hide Unused Rows​Hide unused rows and columns. This makes the worksheet look less cluttered and prevents your users from wasting time searching. To hide columns, select the first blank column to the right of your data, holding down shift and CTRL keys, presst he right arrow key (Shift + CTRL + Right Arrow). Right-click in the selected area and choose Hide. To hide rows, leave one blank row below your data, then select the next row below that. Holding down Shift and CTRL, press the down arrow key (Shift + CTRL + Right Arrow). Right click in the selected area and choose Hide.​Do not keep empty rows and columns outside the print area.​no example.
Alt Text and Captions​Insert Alternative Text (ALT text) and captions for informational images or charts. Right click on the image and choose Insert Caption.  Right click on the image and choose Format Picture and then, click the third icon over and click on ALT TEXT.​Do not provide ALT text or captions for non-informational or simply decorative images.

Excel Alt Text.jpgExcel Format Shape Alt Text.jpg

​Multiple Images​If you have multiple images or objects that are layered over one another, group or combine them into one image. You may be able to do this using the Group option or using a third-party tool such as SnagIt.​Do not overlay or group several objects next to one another so they appear as one object.​no example
Color to Convey MeaningWhen using color to convey meaning, add a non-color method as well, such as text as shown in the visual example column.Do not use color alone to convey meaning.​


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​Color Contrast​Use a strong color contrast. This is not usually checked via Microsoft Word. It requires a visual check. The video in the right column under Videos on color and contrast has a brief but good explanation.Some examples for Don'ts: Do not use white text on a gray background. Do not use red and green text and highlighting together.  For more details, see the short video.​​no example
​FontsUse fonts that are clear and legible (e.g., Arial or Times New Roman), generally in the 10 to 14 point range. The spacing in the document should be enough to show paragraph breaks clearly. Spacing between lines should be at least 120% of the font size. This is the default in Word.​Do not use fancy fonts that are more decorative than functional. This is especially important in headings.​no example
Accessibility CheckerAlways run the accessibility checker when you are finished with your document to see if any issues are identified, then remediate those items prior to publishing your document. You access the checker by clicking File, the Info menu option will display and then select Check for Issues drop down and select Check Assessibility.​Don't assume your document is good, always run the checker as a double check.Excel Accessibility Checker
​Accessibility Checker in Microsoft (Excel) 365
Are you using Microsoft 365 (the online version of the Microsoft Office Apps)? Accessibility checker is still there with even more capabilities to help you make your content accessible right out of the gate.  You will access the checker from the Review tab, click on Accessibility Checker and it will open in a right hand panel.
​Don't assume your document is good, always run the checker as a double check.

MS Office Accessibility Checker - Understand the inspection results

After Accessibility Checker inspects your content, it reports the inspection results based on the severity of the issue found, categorized as follows:

  • Errors. Issues that are reported as errors include content that is very difficult or impossible for people with disabilities to understand.

  • Warnings. Warnings, in many cases, mean that the content is challenging for people with disabilities to understand.

  • Tips. Tips let you know that, even though people with disabilities can understand the content, it could be better organized or presented to improve their experience.


 For a more detailed checklist of the items to review in your document:

508 Checklist


For more detailed tutorials on how to create 508 compliant Excel documents view videos below.  Recommended that you use Microsoft 365 for the best experience:

Microsoft 365 Browser version

This video describes how to use the Accessibility Checker and the accessibility features in Microsoft 365.


Excel 2013 and 2016 Requirements to Make an Excel Document Accessible Part 1 (13:40 mins)


Excel 2013 and 2016 Requirements to Make an Excel Document Accessible Part 2  (9:37 mins)


Excel 2013 & 2016: Accessible Excel Forms Part 1

This module covers the basics for creating accessible Excel forms, as well as a brief review of Excel accessibility best practices (8:05 mins).


Excel 2013 & 2016: Accessible Excel Forms Part 2 (7:32 min)

This module gives more advanced instructions on controlling the type of data being entered, and also locking and protecting your form (7:32 mins).

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